1997, PG-13, 106 min. Directed by Roger Christian. Starring Patrick Stewart, Vincent Kartheiser, Brenda Fricker, Brad Whitford, Matt Craven, Annabelle Gurwitch, Jon Abrahams, Katie Stewart.

REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Aug. 29, 1997

Masterminds is Toy Soldiers updated for the hacker generation. Kartheiser plays Ozzie Paxton, a teenage misfit with an unruly home life and a penchant for code-cracking and online crime. While his computer-guru dad closes a big business deal, Ozzie finds himself trapped behind enemy lines when a group of Uzi-wielding terrorists -- led by the school's new security adviser and ex-SAS officer Ralph Bentley (Stewart) -- infiltrate and take over his kid-sister's ritzy private school and demand $650 million for the release of the children. Ozzie, we learn, had once attended the same school but was permanently banned after his destructive shenanigans proved too much for the onsite authorities, including the perpetually harried Principal Maloney (Fricker). Now, it's up to him to use his covert knowledge of the school's network of underground tunnels and secret rooms (!) to save the kids and destroy Bentley's nefarious schemes. Brit director Christian (he's currently a second-unit director on the new Star Wars prequel) has created a fluffy, teen-empowerment fantasy that manages to remain at least somewhat engaging despite the fact that the whole thing is sillier than the Muppets on a bad day. Plot holes abound, but you come away from the film feeling that the cast and crew were having so much goofy fun that even they didn't give a damn. Kartheiser turns in a serviceable performance as the long-haired, misunderstood miscreant; he looks like a very young Trent Reznor, minus the raging angst. Stewart, for his part, is in peak scenery-chewing form. Toward the end of the film, confident in his escape plans, Bentley casts off the button-down long-sleeve shirt he's been wearing to reveal -- I'm not kidding -- a brilliant red Manchester United soccer jersey, then pumps his arms in the air while triumphantly screaming, “United! United!” Where on earth that came from is anyone's guess, but I'll wager that director Christian is a Man U. fanatic (as is Stewart, who has already gone on record as such). Other absurdities abound, as when Bentley first introduces himself to Prinicipal Maloney: “Hello Mr. Bentley,” she offers. “Please, call me Ralph,” he responds, pronouncing the first name as “Rafe.” To which Maloney answers, “Ralph. Fine.” Get it?! “Ralph Fiennes?” Such jaw-dropping inanities are fortunately rare. Instead, Masterminds is, for the most part, a pleasantly inoffensive 100-minute time-waster -- no more, and rarely any less.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Roger Christian Films
Battlefield Earth
Simply put, Battlefield Earth is the worst film I've seen in over 10 years, and believe me, that's saying a lot. It's a hideous masterwork ...

Marc Savlov, May 19, 2000

More by Marc Savlov
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
Remembering James “Prince” Hughes, Atomic City Owner and Austin Punk Luminary
The Prince is dead, long live the Prince

Aug. 7, 2022

Green Ghost and the Masters of the Stone
Texas-made luchadores-meets-wire fu playful adventure

April 29, 2022


Masterminds, Roger Christian, Patrick Stewart, Vincent Kartheiser, Brenda Fricker, Brad Whitford, Matt Craven, Annabelle Gurwitch, Jon Abrahams, Katie Stewart

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Keep up with happenings around town

Kevin Curtin's bimonthly cannabis musings

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle